Think twice before abandoning your stand for a rendezvous with a cheeseburger!
If a buck falls in the forest and nobody’s there to hear the shot, do guns make noise?
There might’ve been fewer deer hunters afoot or aloft between 10 a.m. and noon on Nov. 15, the second day of Indiana’s 2009 firearms season, but those who packed lunches or ignored their grumbling stomachs likely heard plenty of shooting. That was definitely the case in Posey and Jefferson counties, where two of the year’s finest specimens were taken minutes apart.
Eric Hinderliter of New Harmony, Ind., was about to write off his morning hunt when opportunity knocked. By lunchtime, he’d already field-dressed a new state record. Aurora hunter David Drew was facing the same chore at the opposite corner of the state.
Their stories make a strong case for midday vigils.
When it comes to hunting deer and turkeys, Eric is accustomed to playing second fiddle to his wife, Brita. The Hinderliters are like TV personalities Lee and Tiffany Lakosky or Ralph and Vicki Cianciarulo — living, breathing testaments to the hunt-together/stay-together proverb about spouses who share the outdoors.
Of course, there’s also a friendly competition, which always seems to leave Eric with a mouthful of envy. No matter how good a buck or longbeard he shoots, whether judged by point or inch, Brita will usually best him before the seasons close in Posey County.
“We’re avid hunters, and I love sharing time in the woods with her. But ever since we met, she has managed to show me up with higher scoring bucks and longer bearded turkeys,” he laughs. “I always catch grief from my buddies.”
Brita almost did it to him again last November, and Eric had a ringside seat. Had she pulled it off, he’d have been happy to play the role of one-man cheering section — even if it meant a fresh round of jabs from his pals. But the friendly game of upsmanship took a different twist that day.
It was Nov. 15, and the Hinderliters were hunting with Eric’s father and his best friend. They all spread out across the same piece of ground.
The morning progressed slowly; the deer remained in hiding. Eager for a change of scenery, Eric left his stand to join Brita. She had not seen anything either.
“I called my father to see if he was done, too,” Eric said. “He wasn’t down yet, so Brita and I sat there and waited for him to come out and meet us. As soon as I hung up the phone, Brita whispered to me, ‘Eric, there’s a doe.’
“Due to the thickness of the woods, I couldn’t see the doe very well, but she was about 100 yards away on the edge of a field,” he continued. “Since we really needed the meat, I told Brita to shoot. But we decided not to take her because she was acting funny, as if a buck was about to join her.”
Yessir, almost on cue, a buck popped out of the timber. Brita could see it clearly, but Eric couldn’t tell much about its rack.
“I really had no idea if the buck was decent or not,” he said. “The two deer walked along the edge of the field to within 75 yards, and then they went back into the woods. After I grunted three or four times, the buck started angling toward us.
“The woods were so thick, it was nearly impossible to keep the deer in sight. But I told Brita to stand up and get ready,” Eric said.
As soon as the buck entered a small gap in the trees, its left side fully exposed, Brita squeezed the trigger. The buck sped away, flared white tail at full mast.
It stopped at 100 yards to peer back toward the source of the boom. Within moments, Eric acquired the deer’s right shoulder in his sights and touched off his .44 Magnum rifle (one of the few antiquated centerfire calibers allowed in Indiana). But the buck didn’t flinch that time either. It ran off, tail high again, toward some thick brush.
Not knowing if either or both had hit the deer, Eric and Brita almost ran to the last place the buck had been standing and discovered blood. Rather than pursue the trail into the thick stuff, they returned to the field to wait for reinforcements.
“We wondered if the deer was dead, and, if so, which of us had shot it,” Eric said. “Either way, we would both be extremely happy.”
After waiting about 45 minutes, husband and wife ventured back into the woods and to the blood trail. Eric followed it for about 10 steps into the brush before he glanced ahead and saw — on the ground — a much bigger deer than he remembered.
“When I shot, I had no clue how big a rack this deer had,” he said. “Brita was crying in amazement over the deer, and we didn’t even know whose deer it was. At that point, to be honest, we really didn’t care.”
The riddle was solved, however, when they flipped the deer over and saw the bullet’s entry hole … on the right side. There was no exit wound to complicate matters.
“Congrats, honey,” Brita told Eric.
Remember that movie in 2008 called “Wanted,” starring James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman? The one in which gifted assassins could shoot around stuff?
If you ask David Drew whether that’s doable, you’ll get a flat “No.”
Fumbling to reload his muzzleloader following the obliteration of a low hanging vine, David cursed himself for thinking he could shoot over it in the first place.
Aware that his buddy, Rob, was calling to see what he’d shot, aware that the doe had probably busted him and that her suitor was either going to follow her or turn tail and run, and keenly aware that sabot No. 2 was stuck in the “pre-load” he was carrying, the 38-year-old was running out of glue.
He should’ve waited. Creative aiming is best practiced when you’re not looking down the barrel at a buck that makes the five on your wall look like goats.
David isn’t a farmer, and his family doesn’t own land. He’s a maintenance mechanic at a power plant. While he’d managed to collect five wallhangers in the seasons leading up to 2009, he didn’t have a “decent” place of his own to hunt.
He doesn’t know where he would’ve been that day if his friend, Rob Louden, hadn’t invited him to hunt a hilly 170-acre woodlot owned by his father.
David scouted the tract several weeks earlier, concentrating on a remote section he thought would be far removed from the other hunters expected to be out and about when the gun season opened. A new invitee, he didn’t want to interfere with the regulars.
“I wasn’t really excited about it, honestly. There wasn’t a whole lot of sign,” he said. “But my buddy said activity would pick up during the gun season, and he was right.”
He’d visited the Jefferson County tract the day before and seen probably 20 deer. He’d chosen a spot on the ground next to the dead-looking tree to which Rob had planned to attach a ladder stand. It was within 60 yards of a creek crossing. Rob never got a chance to lug in the ladder before the season arrived.
About 8:00 on the second morning, a 9-pointer came in from the opposite side and crossed the creek. Before scaling the bank, however, it spooked and went back the way it had come.
About 10:15, David heard and then saw a buck following a doe at 100 yards. They also crossed the creek. He knew he’d better be ready, too, because if they headed into the cedar thicket, he wouldn’t get a shot.
When the buck was at 60 yards, David raised his blackpowder rifle and became instantly aware of the drooping vine. He didn’t have time to move and couldn’t shoot around it, so he tried to shoot over the obstruction by anchoring the bottom edge of the muzzleloader’s stock at the top of his shoulder.
The slug tore into the vine.
David had lost sight of the doe by that point, but the buck — miraculously — was still out there.
“I was a nervous wreck while trying to reload. It might’ve taken only a minute — because I carry pre-loads — but it seemed like it took forever. And it didn’t help that the sabot got stuck in the pre-load case.”
By the time David had re-stoked his muzzleloader and pulled it back to his shoulder, the doe sprang up out of the creek bed a mere 20 yards away from him. She stomped her foot and then raced off another 20 yards to his left. When the buck popped up, it was at 25 yards, and no vine was in the way.
After shot No. 2, the buck ran back in the creek, crossed it and fell on the other side.
“I laid back and said, ‘Thank you, Lord,’ before it occurred to me I’d better keep my eyes on the buck,” he said.
Rob, who was hunting a couple hundred yards away, had turned on his radio as soon as David shot the first time. David was too busy reloading to answer, although he was muttering under his breath, “Yeah, I shot. I shot.”
Later, when David and Rob made contact, David doesn’t remember a word he said.
Might’ve been something about Angelina Jolie and bullets.
I’m not saying that hunting between 10 a.m. and noon offers a guarantee. But I’ve sent Happy Meal coupons to all my hunting buddies. And I now hunt with a bigger backpack, one that’ll hold a couple of drink bottles, snack crackers, candy bars and a measuring tape.
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